Thursday, December 30, 2010

Handmade Gifts

I really enjoy making gifts for other people but I wonder how the receivers feel.  I know there are some people who really like a handmade gift and appreciate the effort and time that went into it, but on the downside, when you get a handmade gift that just "isn't you" or doesn't fit, there's no exchanging it.  This year, I tried to keep my handmade gift projects limited to people I thought would enjoy them the most, or things specifically mentioned.  The exception is that I can't help making cute little sweaters for my niece and goddaughter, so I think they are going to be stuck with some crazy-Aunt-Karen gifts!  Hopefully when they're old enough to start telling me what they want, I will not take it personally.  Or maybe they'll think my stuff's wicked-awesome fashion and ask for more!  Anyway, here are my handmade gifts for the year.

Saroyan  for Kristina

As you can tell from the photos, I finished it last spring!  I have always wanted to try one of Liz's patterns and really enjoyed this one.  It is written in a way that allows you to make the shawl as wide and as long as you want.  I went by the yarn I had and it ended up between a scarf and a shawl but will keep your neck nice and warm!  It is sort of the shape of my favorite scarf.  I knitted a sample out of this yarn for Marly in 2009 and wanted to knit another project with it.  Wool gives this yarn stability and the bamboo content gives the yarn a nice sheen and more warmth.  I was thinking of Kristina when I started this project and when I got done, it seemed like it definitely wanted to belong to her!

Pattern:  Saroyan by Liz Abinante - free!
Yarn:  Bamboo Ewe from Debbie Stoller, Lipstick red
Ravelry details here.


Socks  for my mom

My mom loves handknit socks so I had intended to make her more than one pair through the year but I just did not have the time.  However, I did start this pair for her in August.  I traded Dawn some pictures of her Autism hat pattern for this yarn.  It was nice to work with.  The pattern is from Sensational Knitted Socks and the only problem I had is that I misplaced the book after the first sock.  Now I could have borrowed this book from several different friends, had I not altered the pattern slightly.  Agh!  I did manage to get the second sock knit up by following the first sock.  Unfortunately I did not have these done by present-opening time but I finished them before I left my mom's house.  (I also had to undo my cast on row because the cuff was too tight.  I just put all the stitches on needles as I undid the row, and bound it back off with the EZ Sewn Bind off.  I really like this bind off, it's flexible; here's a video if you want to see it.)

Pattern:  3x3 Cable with Moss Stitch by Charlene Schurch
Yarn:  Louet Gems in Charcoal from Ms.Yarn
Ravelry details here.

Eyelet Sweater for my niece

Wow, this post has lots of craft drama!  This project was no exception!  Someone gave me this yarn and I thought the texture was really fun.  I found this sweater online and thought it looked like a fun knit.  I swatched my yarn and my gauge was a little small so I thought I would knit my own size between the sizes available.  This would probably have been fine if I had picked the right sizes to work between but when I tried it on her in November, somehow I made it too small!  I had enough yarn to start over so I did, and the second time I went by the 3T size.  Since I knew the pattern already, it came together really quickly.  I used vintage buttons of my grandmother's for the closure.  I don't actually know that this sweater fit my niece, but hopefully it does!

Pattern:  Eloise Eyelet Sweater by Lion Brand Yarn - free if you sign up to their website
Yarn:  JoAnn Sensations Stellina, red, 3 1/2 balls
Ravelry link.

And my finally project was not a knit!  I wrote it all up but I am having a lot of problems getting my pictures to load and this one is absolutely refusing.  I'll see if I can post it later.

*In weather today, we've had snow falling ALL DAY!  Finally.

**And on a personal note, BFJ and I have been married fifteen years this week.  And he's still my best friend. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Winding Down

As Christmas was winding down, I enjoyed the very last of my Holiday Tea in my new Alice cup.

I'm looking forward to the clean slate of a new year.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!!

Crafter's kids:  someone put a fabric swatch on Baby Jesus.

I hope you are having a merry and meaningful day!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Random Review Friday: Independent Lens, Between the Folds

(It's not quite Friday but almost...)

Last Friday, as I previously mentioned, BFJ took the day off from work, and we had a leisurely lunch out.  We sat down at a table where someone had left a newspaper, and I happened across an article about the movie Between the Folds.  It sounded like a great film for our whole family so we looked it up that evening on Netflix and called the boys in to watch.  I couldn't believe how much moaning and groaning there was!  I told them they had to watch the first ten minutes and then they could leave.  I'm pleased to tell you that they all stayed to the end!  Origami is the subject of this movie, but it's not just about paper cranes.  This documentary really speaks to the ingenuity of art and the human mind.  During the middle of the film, Speed got up and brought back a stack of copy paper and began folding and folding.  I knew this movie would connect with him especially.  Many aspects of origami are showcased in this film, beginning with three different artists (I was transfixed by Eric Joisel's work), and moving on to other topics such as the scientific applications of origami, papermaking, and sculptures with just one fold.  There are so many different avenues of art within this one medium.  We all really enjoyed this movie.

If you don't have access to Netflix or other place to rent it, I understand it will soon be on PBS's Independent Lens series on television.  Keep your eye out for it!

ETA:  Sally commented that it will be airing on PBS on January 18 and the DVD is available now.  See comments for a link.

Coincedentally, I made this bow last week prior to seeing the film.  I don't know if I'll have time to make more but it was kind of fun.  I like making my own... everything!  You might have noticed that about me.  You can see a few more on Allsorts (what a pretty blog!) and find detailed directions for the bow at Craft Ideas.  Good luck making your own! 

One more day!  One more day!  One more day!  One more day! 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar Eclipse

Did you stay up to watch the lunar eclipse?  Zoom kept reminding me that it was tonight, and wanted me to wake him up, so I did.  Hey, no school this week anyway!

Here's my first picture, before I woke him up. 

And a little later...  These two pictures are basically the same time but different exposure.  In the second one, you can see how the moon is turning red.  You can see a star in the left third of the picture, toward the bottom. 

Here it is almost complete.  Again at the longer exposure first to see the red (and with stars), and then the same phase but shorter exposure to see the eclipse! 

And then we were having so much fun that we decided to try and shoot Orion.  I can't believe I got such good pictures, I've actually learned something about photography!  I know lots of people have great pictures of constellations and the moon but this is the first time I've ever gotten better pictures than I expected, instead of much worse. 

And one final picture of the eclipsed moon with stars.

SO MUCH FUN.  Totally worth getting up for, I'm glad he asked me to do it!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

More December

I finally got a picture of some snow on the garden fence.  After a few hours, it was gone.

The best Christmas gift we've gotten so far (okay, the only one) was the roast from Aunt Mary, packed with dry ice!  BFJ happened to take the day off Friday and we spent several minutes putting chunks of the dry ice in a glass of water.  We saved the rest in the freezer to show the boys, but by the time they got home from school, it had disappeared!  I guess we should have left it in the packaging. 

I finished a gift for someone from school, and already delivered it, it's the Just Enough Ruffles scarf from Laura Chou.  I have one, and I love it, so I knew it would be a good gift! 

I have several other projects in the works and hope to get them all done before Christmas, except one.  I started a blanket for my boys, a snuggle-on-the-couch-watching-cartoons sort of blanket, but I have had other things going on and missed my goal of December 1, so it has been on the back burner. 

I'll have to show the rest of them to you next week! 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

December Moments

First, thank you for your thoughtful comments about holiday stress.  I have been enjoying my month since I last posted.  Sometimes it's about frame of mind! 

Secondly, Anna asked whether it wasn't time for a picture of my garden in the snow, so I took this picture yesterday morning.  We have had three snows this fall, and each time I think I'll wait until it piles up a little, but by the time an hour has passed, the snow is all gone.  I guess I should be watering the yard still; we could be having some nice green grass! 

I've mentioned my mom's homemade soup recipe.  We've had lots of runny noses and sore throats around here lately, and when I saw my sister-in-law Thursday morning, she was also sick.  I knew it was time to make some chicken noodle soup.  My niece helped me roll out the noodles. 

She also had fun getting her hands floury like Aunt Karen was doing. 

After my sister-in-law was feeling better, she brought me the most delicious smelling lemony candle for making her some soup.  Wasn't that nice?  Lemon is definitely one of my favorite scents:  it's the smell of summer lemonade, clean house, fresh ingredients. 

Yesterday evening, we went out to dinner with some friends and had a great time just visiting.  I had some fajitas with excellent guacomole and Mexian Coca-Cola.  It was so fun, eating and laughing.  And one of these friends gave me my first birthday present of the year, some Godiva chocolates!  I love chocolate. 

This morning we went to my cousin's house for the sixth annual family brunch on my mom's side.  Some highlights of the gift exchange are pictured below: 

Aunt Banana started out with the Gopher, which she used to pick up trash for several minutes until it was stolen by Aunt Carol. 

My dad did end up with the Handerpants - underpants for your hands.  I guess every body part needs an extra layer of clothing at this time of year? 

And Uncle Radish (he's married to Aunt Banana) will show up to the next party with bells on - bells on his shorts, that is! 

There was lots of good food.  We hear next year there'll be food judging so luckily we have a year to plan our dish.  There were prizes for December birthdays, and this reminds me to wish my mother-in-law a Happy Birthday!

The afternoon wrapped up with a trip to the theater to see Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  I really enjoyed sinking into this movie, the fantasy, the beautiful boat, the regal costumes.  As with most books made into movies, not all the details fit into two hours, but it was a fun family movie.  And then, more wonderful birthday gifts!  I left the party with a plate of Aunt Sharol's peppermint cheesecake brownies.  Think I'll end the day with a few bites!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Now If Only I Had a Catchy Title.

New "wreath" for the bathroom.  Someone asked if I decorate every room, and I don't, but I decided to!

As I look back through the more than 30,000 (literally!) pictures I have in my files, there is a distinct lack of images from the holidays and winter. Is it because I like shooting outside, and it is cold during winter? Or is it because of the light? Or lack of inviting scenery? Perhaps it is because I haven’t taken the time to pause and notice the details like I do during other seasons. When I discover a new, beautiful blog, I frequently go back through their archives from Decembers past, hoping for inspiring pictures, and general eye candy. I have been perusing my usual faves this year, hoping for lots of red and green, but there isn’t as much as I expected. Is this because everyone’s keeping secrets ‘til Christmas? I had been thinking about this at the beginning of the season and intended to post pictures of all my best, most fun, most beautiful.

However, I have struggled to get here and post the past couple weeks because the joy is lacking. I have had two or three personal confrontations that have turned defensive. Every time, I was so taken aback. I don’t know how I get so blindsided, and why does this always happen at Christmas? People are always saying how they are stressed out with money, and relatives, and so on. Well I don’t like it! I am not going to take it! Besides this being my holiday along with everyone else, my birthday is next week. And I want to like this month of crafts and surprises and visits. I can’t help that I’m getting old but I really enjoy life and so many things about it. Every day holds wonders. I like having birthdays! So people with mean words coming out of your mouths, step aside. I am not going to hear you anymore this month. There; I just had to “say it out loud.”

I am resolved to declutter my life from commitments I should have said no to, or that are simply too much for today. For one thing, I’ll have more time to make chocolatey cookies with my kids! I’m going to let go of the bitterness I have that my Photoshop is no longer compatible with my operating system. I’m not going to feel guilty if people give me weird things for gifts, especially strangers. Gifts don’t always define love. Sometimes they are just supposed to be fun. Sometimes it is a bridge from someone who doesn’t really know you, but wishes they did.

I don’t like whiney bloggers. I think that negativity begets negativity. But, I do enjoy a funny rant, and sometimes, I need to be informed. It’s got to be clever, succinct or to a point. So my point? I know the meaning of Christmas: Jesus loves me.

I’m just going to laugh out loud when they least expect it. Maybe that will remind someone nearby that life is FUN. And I invite you to do it too.

PS Natalie, I love shopping for you. I never know what to buy you, but it makes me appreciate all the aqua things and orange things and sparkly things that I don’t usually look at :).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday Cookies

In anticipation of all the sweets of the season, I picked up the Holiday Cookies edition of Martha Stewart a few weeks ago.  Finally this week we found time together to make a batch and we started with Double-Chocolate Cookies with Holiday Stencils (p. 62).  Upon the first read through, I didn't catch that only part of the chocolate was to be melted, but fortunately it did not adversely affect the finally result too much.  The first few actually had stencils but by the end we were just going for the free-form powdered sugar dusting!  

Pretty easy, and very good!  (And all gone.) 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Tree is Up!

I'm planning to repaint the walls, soon.  I love the green, but it's just so green.  It doesn't go with everything.  Opinions? 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A is for Advent

Advent:  a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas.

Every Christmas growing up, we had an advent wreath.  I don't know what we started out with, but I remember one year my mom made one out of clay or dough and baked it, and we had that one for several years.  My parents may still have it!  

It dawned on me a couple of years ago that Advent is something my children know nothing about and I asked my dad to make an advent wreath for me out of wood.  Last year he made it but I didn't manage to fit it in to all that was already going on.  A few weeks ago, I was cleaning up my laundry / craft room and came across it.  So often, I find something I meant to do for a holiday a month or two after the holiday has passed; I was glad I found this in plenty of time.  I bought candles for it but did not know what scriptures are read or what they are supposed to signify.  I asked my dad if he had a group of readings, and he lent me a booklet called 'A is for Advent.'  We read the first page tonight, and lit the first candle.  The boys seemed to enjoy it, and hopefully this will begin a meaningful tradition for them, as well. 

I like that this piece of tradition is something that actually has first person meaning to me, unlike a lot of the things we do without knowing exactly why.  Although, I do love traditions in general, especially Christmas trees.  I also like that this wreath reflects us, simple, wooden, rustic.  I asked my dad to put all the candle holes on one side, instead of spreading them out evenly.  That's just the way I wanted it; it turned out perfect. 

I'm looking forward to lighting the next three candles.

November Trees

And here's a picture of beetle kill - the brown pines.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Water on Leaf

It's wet, it's dry; it snows, it blows, it's warm again.  I took this picture earlier this week and didn't download it right away.  Now that I have, I wish I'd taken the time to really get down close and take a few more, but I do like this picture: 

I have gotten a few things really cleaned up but you know, other stuff piles up so it seems like I haven't accomplished a lot.  I am hoping to paint.  Did I already say that recently?  I took some 'before' pictures in the hopes that I'll have 'after' pictures soon!! 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Too Many Things

I write posts in my head all the time but sometimes they don't get finished.  Sometimes, there are just too many things I want to post about.  Sometimes, I don't have any pictures! 

Last week, we tried a new recipe: corn chowder.  I am sure corn chowder is familiar to many of you, but to me it was new.  I love it!  In fact, all three boys cleaned their bowls.  We tried Tyler Florence's recipe, it was delicious.  I have a picture but it just doesn't do justice to the dish.  I don't believe the words 'corn chowder' are all that enticing but maybe I'll get better pictures next time I make it.  I will tell you, we used fresh thyme and parsley from our garden.  This is the first year I've grown parsley.  I didn't know it was going to stick around after the first frost, but I'm glad it has. 

I've been knitting lots.  I am working on a sample piece and at least three Christmas presents.  I've been playing, and experimenting, with my camera.  Yesterday, the boys and I went to a park after school and had a little walk around with the camera.  We had our first snow this past week.  This is the latest I can ever remember having our first snow. 

Today, I received several packages, Christmas presents I'd ordered.  I also received a catalog in the mail today, for Heirloom Roses.  All of my rose plants are from Heirloom Roses, I believe I have four.  One thing I really like about them is they rate the fragrancy of the roses so you know if you're getting one that will really have a nice scent.  I never realized that some roses don't really smell, and I didn't know how many kinds of smells they have - citrusy, cloves, "old rose", and more.  I was going to put up some rose pictures but that seems wrong because a) we should enjoy November for November's sake and b) if you're not enjoying November weather it will just make you long for summer flowers all the more!  However, I may put up some rose pictures in January, when I'm planning my garden for spring, and missing the sunshine.  Scrolling through my past 'Garden' posts, I see I have not posted many rose pictures.  I'll have to work on those for next year.

Well, that's what I've been up to.  I've also enjoyed reading tons of creative, inspiring blogs, and not even taken the time to comment.  Perhaps I'll have more to say in a few days, maybe some new pictures.  For now, I hope you're enjoying November!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Costumes: Finally!

Greetings, noble readers.  Your faithful observer spotted this swell and his ladykin, The Honorable Cornelius Trigg and unconventional wife, Duchess Iphegenia Trigg, victorian world travellers, out and about on All Hallows Eve.  The pair were accompanying a trio of small hoodlums brandishing outlandish irons in pursuit of small candied treats, and nary a passerby escaped them.  It may be said that the Hon. Trigg is heard late nights hurling wrenches and insults at a contraption invented for "traveling time" but it's nothing to the scandal of a lady with ink on her fingers, striding around in breeches!

Okay, you might want a little more clarification.  We were steamers!  When I saw How to Train Your Dragon last spring, I was mesmerized by Astrid's terribly knit sweater, and knew I could make one for Halloween.  Over the summer, however, as we've enjoyed looking at steampunk gadgets online, my mind detoured and I thought it would be fun to make a steampunk hat.  We were discussing Halloween plans last week at friends Ed & Steph's house when it came up that Ed had some "timely" accessories so BFJ was coerced into being a steamer as well.  He might not admit it but I think he enjoyed dressing up, and was amused by the guesses of what he was (magician, undertaker...) 

Despite the fact that I've heard several times that you can find adequate welding goggles at "your local hardware store," this is apparently not true.  I went to several, then finally to a welding supply company and had to order them!  I took them apart and painted them, beginning with primer, then brown and black spray paint, and finally gold, and changed the chain over the nose to a strip of leather.  I also painted my compass gold although the bright colors on the face did not lend themselves to the vintage look.  My friend Marly crocheted the lovely blue choker of her own design.  I bought the key for my necklace as part of a ring of keys, and put it instead on a strip of leather.  I also painted a gun but it did not turn out as well as hoped and was more of a nuisance so I mostly did not carry it.  My persona, which was too much for people who didn't even understand "steamer," was that of a cartographer, so I had a cannister (from the odds and ends pile in the basement) with a handdrawn map in it. 

Oh, the blouse!  I purchased it at ARC along with my boots and belt.  You can see its original style here.  I took in the sides, removed the sleeves, recut them and reattached them.  I thought it came out really well!  The only problem is that the cuffs were meant to go around wrists, not arms, so they don't close as they currently are.  I will have to fix that if I wear it again. 

I made the hat using this tutorial from Threadbangers, attached ribbon, feathers from Kristina's wreath, and some wheels from the clock. Originally I put a brooch which belonged to Marie on my hat, but I was asked several times Friday whether I was Amelia and I thought the clockworks would indicate steampunk to those in the know. It did not; perhaps next year I'll have learned to sew well enough to make myself a victorian dress! 

A little too much thought?  Perhaps, but we had a lot of fun, and as I mentioned earlier, we enjoy "making things" around here. 

Oh, I almost forgot, I was working on fingerless gloves for my costume as well, but it became apparent midweek that it was going to be a warm Halloween so it did not stay on the top of the list, and I didn't get the second one done...yet.

Now, Happy November!  I will  be SO GLAD when the politicos stop ringing my phone!!!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Here's our merry little band out late.  Costume pictures tomorrow...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Downtown Photoshoots

I had two photoshoots in Denver this week for Bijou Basin Ranch.  (They have some gorgeous new colors coming out - not to mention seriously cute patterns!)  I was happy Natalie was willing and available to model for some of them.  She's got such great camera presence and is really fun to shoot. 

It's kinda funny, this picture; it really was quite cold.  Marly and I were wearing gloves and hats, but Natalie was a sport looking very Spring in some skirts, tank tops, etc.  The pictures came out great; you can see more of them in January when the patterns are published!  Not only did Natalie model, but she brought along tons of fun accessories from her friends at The Sassy Factory.  I loved the plaid bag but we didn't get it into any of our shots.   For some photos with western flair, we took some pictures in front of  Rockmount Ranch Wear and the shop keepers were kind enough to lend us a cowboy hat for a few minutes.

This morning I shot Ashley (also a cute model) in some of the other pieces.  Luckily for her and us, it was much warmer this morning, although I don't know if the people in the Denver Gorilla Run were so happy about that!  (click on the picture for a very slightly better view) 

31° to 76° in two days: I love Denver!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wheels are Turning

I acquired this item today, for my costume, and it took quite a bit more than I'd figured to get it into pieces.  It's been a crazy day.  I received no less than twelve phone calls while I was covered in grease trying to get this thing apart.  Some days, my phone doesn't even ring once!

Can't wait to show you our end results...  !

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What We're Doing This Weekend...

The past week, we've had visits from both of our parents and both of their dogs.  My parents were here very briefly but we had a very nice, leisurely visit from BFJ's parents.  Friday, we had a bit of time without agenda so I talked them into posing for pictures.  I love this one; it tells you what a great couple they are. 

We also celebrated three family birthdays.  Besides cake with homemade frosting - yum, we have been enjoying some zucchini bread with zucchini from our garden, some roasted pumpkin seeds from the pumpkins we carved (apparently the green ones are not for carving) and we are working on some local popcorn picked still on-the-cob... 

(I bet Theresa and Steve are nodding at the winnowing)

Yesterday, I came home from a meeting to find one of my sister-in-laws here, so I wrangled her into shopping at the thrift store and craft store for some Halloween crafting.  She made a black feather wreath for about half the price of the ones she'd been eyeing brand new.  

I purchased this shirt for my costume for $3.  It was a bit big, so she pinned it smaller on me and I took in the sides.  I also took off the sleeves and made them shorter.  It actually turned out pretty well!  Altering clothes is one of those things I always see on others' blogs and wish I could do so I figured what better time to try it than with something that doesn't matter and is kind of going to be covered anyway. 


I'm also working on making, painting, assembling, some other bits of my costume: 

I'm hoping to have a detailed picture for you later this week.  This is the first time in a long time that I'm going out of my way to be something on purpose, instead of whatever is in the closet that might not look like I wear it every day.  I'm having a lot of fun making stuff, I don't know why I don't venture out in paint and assembly more often. 

We are listening to the Vince Guaraldi channel on Pandora while we put together our first ever family gingerbread house.  Here's a picture of the house with pieces setting.  Notice how my resourceful boys built some braces for it. 

And we are enjoying the last days of nice weather around here.  I hear it will be freezing on Wednesday.  I hope that is in the evening after photoshoots. 

I hope you are enjoying the last week of October!  Now I'm off to see what my favorite bloggers are up to.